Ask Amy: A 'bad aunt' gets grief from her family

February 7, 2014 

Dear Amy: I am in my late 20s and single. I have a 7-year-old nephew and another niece/nephew on the way.

Truth be told, I don't like kids. I love babies, but once they grow out of the irresistible cuddly phase they seem like loud, grabby, sticky-handed terrors. I truly love my bright little nephew. I enjoy spending time with him, but I don't enjoy playing with him.

I've been chided for not talking to him like a child but more like an adult. I don't know how to "talk down."

Lately I've been getting some lighthearted grief about not being a "good aunt," and with the new baby on the way I'm feeling guilty and introspective. I guess I'm wondering if I am being a bad aunt for not wanting to baby-sit or spend kid time with my nephew as a kid. Should I change? And how? I should mention I'm a great gift-giver, and I can't wait for him to grow up!

— Bad aunt

Dear Aunt: If you were an uncle and not an aunt, would your family members expect you to baby-sit and brand you as "bad" if you didn't enjoy "alone time" with their offspring? Probably not.

I can tell you from personal experience that being an aunt is just about the greatest relationship experience there is, partly because it is a relationship that you can define (partly) on your own terms. Some aunts/uncles are superinvolved all the way through life, while others (like you) pass through phases and stages of involvement.

The only change you need to make is to realize that when you are with young children it can enhance your own experience to try to see the world through their eyes, hence the "talking down" to children and letting kids occasionally direct the action through play.

However, you should not be made to feel guilty if this sort of involvement is not for you.

Dear Amy: I could really relate to the letter from "So Sad," whose beloved cat died suddenly. As the owner of many wonderful companion animals, I can identify with the grief and sadness. I agree with your recommendations about how to memorialize this pet and would like to add that her local vet will probably have contact information for a pet-loss support group.

— Animal lover

Dear Animal Lover: Good suggestion. Thank you.


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